Kahshe Lake Cottage Muskoka, Ontario Property Photos, Canadian Building, Architecture Development
Kahshe Lake Cottage in the Muskoka Region
1 Apr 2020
Kahshe Lake Cottage
Architects: Solares Architecture
Location: The Muskoka Region, Ontario, Canada
The story of Kahshe Lake Cottage started in 1987, when architect Tom Knezic’s parents bought the water-access property and built a small bunkie as a temporary shelter. Their goal was to then design and build their dream family cottage. When the 1989 recession hit, their plans went on hold. In 2015, Tom’s father passed away, and his mother decided that it was time to finish what they had started. Designed “in the family” by Solares Architecture – the firm run by Tom and his wife Christine Lolley – the project is now complete.
The bunkie still sits on the original property, surrounded by outdoor projects created over the years, including the firepit, slack lines, bike trails, even a hammock zone. The new cottage is sited on the neighbouring property to the north, acquired more recently for this project. The site is full of forest and Canadian Shield rock, including a large rock outcrop along the lake that rises up to the height of the second floor.
The new cottage is built on steel ground screws to reduce the impact on the forest floor and tree roots, so only trees inside the building footprint needed to be removed. Trees just outside the edge of it could remain and gently exist beside the house.
The building is oriented with the length extending east-west so the main living space has a wide view south towards the original property, with gorgeous views of the forest and the kids playing. The west end of the house looks out to the lake with a huge open-air deck, and the east end is nestled into the forest with a covered deck. There are morning areas, afternoon areas, and evening areas, and you get to enjoy the whole site.
Inside, the house is flipped upside down with main living spaces upstairs and the bedrooms and bathrooms all below. This rearrangement brings the main shared areas of the house high enough to take advantage of the lake views. The upstairs is one large open space with many different zones for gathering, eating, and relaxing. The inspiration behind the layout of the building is a summer camp, with egalitarian bedrooms and one big mess hall where activity ebbs and flows throughout the day.
Kahshe Lake Cottage is a legacy project, to be enjoyed by multiple generations and passed down for many more to come. Most summer weekends there are four adults, five children and one grandparent all sharing and enjoying the cottage together, with many friends joining in as well. There is no internet and no screens; just play, relaxation and togetherness in nature.
What was the brief?
The goal was to create a multi-family, multi-generational summer cottage that will be passed down for years to come. As the designers and part of the family, we wanted to create the feel of a summer camp. We wanted it to feel big and busy with play and interactions, as well as be a respite from city life; a place where kids can be independent and do a lot of activities but are also subject to shared chores and no screens. It was important to us to create an experience that’s different from our life at home.
Who are the clients and what’s interesting about them?
Ourselves and our own family were the clients! It’s a multi-family, multi-generational project that we got to design. It’s been an amazing experience.
What were the key challenges?
For one, the property is water-access only, so everything had to come in on a barge. It also meant that there were seasonal access issues because you can’t go when the lake is frozen or thawing. We had to schedule everything for only between late spring and early fall, or in the dead winter when the lake was completely frozen over.
The site itself presented a kind of wonderful challenge: it’s completely forested on top of Canadian Shield bedrock, and we wanted to disrupt the landscape as little as possible. It’s a very delicate eco-system. Plant matter there has been accruing in place for millions of years. In some areas the rock is exposed, and in others the soil is only six inches deep over rock. When you disturb the environment, it can disappear very quickly from wind and water erosion.
The view to the lake was a whole storey above the ground level, up and over a huge rock outcropping that rises all along the water’s edge. We wanted to capture that view.
What were the solutions?
For the site access issues, we simply had to get comfortable with the build taking longer than it might have otherwise. We looked at it as a two-year timeline, rather than expecting it to be built in one year.
To reduce our impact on the forest floor we used ground screws to perch the building above the ground. This enabled us to only cut down trees that were within the boundaries of the building footprint. It meant that trees extremely close to the footprint could remain in place, and having those trees so close to the house really enhances the experience of being at the cottage.
We worked with the big rock outcropping by designing an “upside down” house. We located the bedrooms and bathrooms on the ground level and put the main living space on the upper level to take advantage of the views over the rock. The deck on the west side of the Great Room bridges the gap between the house and the rock.
Kahshe Lake Cottage in Muskoka Region, Ontario – Building Information
Architects: Solares Architecture
Structural Engineer: Canvas Engineering
Builder: Cottage Concepts
Project size: 2350 ft2
Site size: 42000 ft2
Completion date: 2020
Building levels: 2
Photography: Nanne Springer
Kahshe Lake Cottage, Muskoka Region images / information received 010421
Location: Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada
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Website: Muskoka Region